I am fascinated by the use of the human voice as a musical instrument, its scope for making sound, particularly how the voice can be used in sound poetry. And I have been held by the collaboration between SJ Fowler and Nathan Walker at the Liverpool Enemies event as an intriguing instance of how voice can be used as sound -- and go beyond that. What follows is an account of my recollection of their performance in Liverpool on Saturday and my responses - immediate and considered -- to that. (I was sat on the front row).
In preparation Steven Fowler and Nathan Walker moved closer together, pulling in their microphones stands and standing with their shoes almost touching -- a merging of bodies? As their performance began, their mouths were moving but I couldn’t hear any sound. I began watching the movement of their lips closely to try to work out what they were saying. When sound did come, I was in the moment distracted by my interest in the technical aspects of their performance - the making of these sounds by a human, two human, voices, and the interaction between those voices. As I watched their faces, and listened, I was aware that their voices were making sounds which were highly emotive -- distress, hysteria, madness emerged from their mouths which had been, to begin with, moving, but making no sound. At times, to me, there were emotive elements to the sounds of their voices and in their facial expressions that created a sense of distress that was uncomfortable to watch, but their voices also at times provoked laughter from the audience.
That evening I wasn’t sure how to respond - beyond that emotional response I’d felt in the immediacy of their performance. There is more to sound poetry than just the sound made! As with other poems the Fowler Walker piece held something beyond the immediate feelings it evoked in my raw experience of it. There was something unresolved for me in that performance that I needed to, but hadn’t yet made sense of, something I hadn’t caught hold of . . .
The Fowler Walker performance came directly after Sandeep Parmar’s striking performance of poems based on a tarot card reading, including Trump and May ‘cards’. For me, something of the context of Parmar’s tarot card readings carried into the highly charged and emotionally ambivalent Fowler Walker performance. And it has been mulling over the effect of carrying over of a context of the current political climate into the Fowler Walker performance which has given me a sense I had been fumbling after; and which, for me, makes theirs an expressive vocalisation that was actually quite perfect.